Last week the Board Finance and Property Committee recommended the Board of Governors approve increases to International tuition, rent, and the mandatory meal plan at their next meeting on March 16. These increases will result in a 3.14% increase on international tuition, a 4% increase on rent, and a 15% increase on the cost of the meal plan.
Both Students’ Union President Marina Banister and Graduate Students’ Association President Babak Soltannia presented and spoke against the increases, saying that they would continue to make a postsecondary education unattainable for many Albertans and cause undue hardship on students.
Due in part to the increases in staff wages, including increases to the minimum wage, the unionization of the residence assistants, and the carbon tax, administrators stated that the university must increase rents to a level not competitive with the Edmonton market.
The University has a balancing act in setting rent. If the rate is too high, students will look elsewhere for housing, but if the vacancy rate in the residence system is too high, the university won’t collect enough rent to cover the cost.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation report claims that $839 is the current average rate for a bachelor suite in Edmonton. The proposed average rate for bachelor in Newton Place will be set at $955. With the U-Pass, students now have a wider access to housing options in Edmonton, and no longer have to balance cost with distance.
“Clearly the university is pricing themselves out of the market and creating another problem for themselves later on,” said Banister. “At that price I would rather rent a better place a few blocks away at a cheaper rate and I expect other students will do the same.”
The committee also recommended changes to the mandatory meal plan, changing it from a declining balance to a buffet style. Next year Listerites will swipe their meal card for access and be able to take as little or as much as they want. However, unlike the current plan, students will not get the left over funds at the end of the year.
“We know that students will not eat all their meals at Lister. This plan will cost students more as they will be buying lunch from HUB or SUB with their debit card and not the meal plan card,” said Banister.
Adding the three increases together will negatively impact international students the most. International students have already reported going hungry, or being homeless as ways of dealing with the costs to their education. Increases are difficult to budget for as the University does not inform residents or international students of potential future increases.
“If International students were told in advance that they should expect $700 increases year after year, they could plan for it or better know the full cost of their degree,” said Banister. “Yet now students are not informed and are just expected to deal with these large increases. It's not just.”
The Board of Governors will be meeting on Friday, March 16, 2018, to discuss and vote on these increases. Meetings are open to the public, however they do not allow any recording or live streaming.